Saturday, March 24, 2012

White Male Privilege

I tweeted yesterday about white male privilege, and how it makes me feel.  Full disclosure: I am white, I am male, I am straight (and I am also tall).  I am also middle class, North American, and Canadian.  I've got a lot of things going for me.

So in the future, when I complain, I want you all to keep that in mind.

My privileged status is on my mind a lot these days.  It's relatively easy to be a straight white male these days, as it has been throughout much of history (aside from the sometimes acute existential angst), whereas I wouldn't want to be a woman in the US, a poor person anywhere, a kid on a reservation in Northern Ontario, a queer in Uganda, or a black kid in Florida.

Nobody looks twice when I buy condoms; no one is trying to strip me of my right to buy them.  I never have to try to find something to eat; I have to decide what I'm going to eat.  I had a little mold in my ventilation ducts; I hired a company to come and clean them.  I have always wanted to have sex with women; no one ever tried to fix me with "corrective rape".  I own four or five hooded sweatshirts; I have never been considered a threat because of them.

I feel like I cheated, sometimes.  I, as Chris Rock once pointed out, had a four-hundred-year head start.  And it wasn't anything I did.  It was a quirk of genetics, geography, and history that I wound up where I am.  And knowing that I didn't do anything to earn this makes me feel queasy.  I try to understand what it's like to not be me.  I love and am loved by women (including two daughters) and gay men (my brother and his husband).  Maybe that's why I hate to see what other white straight men are doing.  I've been immersed in other cultures (however briefly), and have felt like a stranger.  Maybe that's why I hate to see minorities or immigrants abused.  I have seen women cross the street to avoid me at night.  Maybe that's why it hurts to see harmless people treated like criminals or animals.

I'm not apologising.  That's condescending.  I'm not complaining.  That's disingenuous.  I'm not confessing.  That's foolish.

It's not easy to be a guy like me: white, straight, tall, male.  But it's a hell of a lot easier to be a guy like me than it is to be a woman, or African, or gay, or African American, or a hundred other things that aren't straight, white or male.

I just wanted to let you know that I know that.

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